Change is a five-letter word referring to the loose coins in your pocket or the thing that comes into your life, shaking it up for the good, the bad or the indifferent. I’ve welcomed it, wished for it, wondered when it would come and dreaded it.
In September 2000, I was more than ready for it.
Sitting amongst piles of clothes and belongings, I picked up a magazine and thumbed through it, pausing to ready my horoscope that read something like this:
“Gigantic changes in every area of your life are presently in the works. This all may seem scary, but once the whirlwind is over, you’ll see how productive its been. Prepare to be proud of your courage and and your accomplishments.”
My heart leapt with anticipation upon reading these words. The only thing I’d argue against that what I was about to embark upon seemed scary. To the contrary. I wasn’t scared at all.
The moment had finally arrived. I’d packed, unpacked and repacked my suitcase about a thousand times until I was sure all the contents were just so. This included rolls of film for my camera, CDs and my portable CD player. All of my life for the next five months fitted inside just three bags: a suitcase, backpack and messenger bag.
The world was a different place then so my parents waited with me at the United Airlines gate until it was time to board. Tears welled in my mom’s eyes as she gave me one final hug goodbye. I hoped that my confidence reassured her. More than anything, I wanted this opportunity to make the world my own. It was my time to go.
This first flight would take me to New Jersey and the next was a red-eye to England. Nearly 4,000 miles from Chicago, I’d make northern London my new home studying theatre for a semester in this city renowned for the dramatic arts and where Shakespeare once performed on the stage of The Globe.
Here I navigated the Tube and double decker buses, discovered cider and drank pints of Strongbow in carpeted pubs built in the 1700s, saw 23 plays in the West End, adopted British phrases like “cheers,” “loo” and “mobile,” ate Cadbury’s Creme Eggs in October (they make them year-round here – not just at Easter!) and shopped at stores along Oxford Circus in special sections dedicated to tall girls. I finally found my island paradise in this country that understood how to make clothes for the long-legged. It was from here that I set off to explore 11 other countries, lived 13 days according to train timetables and managed to pack everything I’d need in a backpack. Much to my surprise, it was here that I met a British boy who four years later would become my husband.
When the whirlwind of my life abroad ended in January, it was difficult to return to the States. My home country felt foreign and unfamiliar. It would take time and distance to reconcile those feelings. Time and distance have also evoked a wistful nostalgia for the life I spent in London all those years ago. Truly it was the best time of my life and the measure of contentment for all else when freedoms abounded, stress was nonexistent, travel was at my fingertips and I still felt like I could do anything.